1929 Marmon Roosevelt

The Nordyke & Marmon Company later known as Marmon Motor Car Company was prolific and innovative from its start in producing automobiles.  Since the firm’s founding in 1851, it was known for its engineering prowess.  It first established its reputation as a builder of flour milling machinery before the company’s first automobile sprang from the mind of Howard C. Marmon.

Nordyke & Marmon’s factory showroom was in a 19th century commercial building at the southwest corner of New York and Meridian streets in the mid 1910’s.  Plant 1 was at the southwest corner of Kentucky Avenue and West Morris Street.  Plant 2 was constructed at the southwest corner of Drover and West York streets.  Plant 3, completed in 1919, is the five-story structure measuring 80 x 600 feet parallel to Morris Street between Kentucky Avenue and Harding Street (now Eli Lilly and Company’s Building 314).  The single story Marmon Assembly Plant was built adjacent to the Morris Street property line with Plant 3 behind and parallel to it (also part of the Eli Lilly complex).


Marmon Plant 3 & Assembly Plant

Marmon Plant 3 & Assembly Plant

Howard C. Marmon’s first production car for Nordyke and Mar­mon Company was remarkably progressive for 1905.  It featured an overhead valve, air-cooled, two-cylinder, 90-degree V configuration engine with pressure lubrication.  Marmon’s design was the earliest automotive application of a system that became universal to internal combustion piston engine.


1904 Marmon Model A

1904 Marmon Model A

In 1906, Marmon was ahead of its time.  The company could be classified as one of the first fully integrated auto manufacturers in America.  Most of the other large manufacturers were providing specifications of major components to be built by other firms.

Early on, Marmon recognized that weight was the enemy in car design.  His early automobiles featured cast aluminum bodies, which weighed substantially less than other makes.  The effectiveness of a lighter body was proven in 1911 with a six-cylinder racing model named the Marmon Wasp.  This car, driven by Ray Harroun, won the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

The 1916 introduction of the Model 34 marked one of the first examples of styling the car as a complete entity versus the standard practice of component styling.  The 1929 Marmon Roosevelt had the distinction of being the first eight-cylinder car in the world to sell for less than $1,000.


1931 Marmon Sixteen advertisement

1931 Marmon Sixteen advertisement

The most recognizable of Marmon’s creations was the Marmon Sixteen with its magnificent 491 c.i.d., 200 h.p., V-16 engine.  The Marmon Sixteen was the largest American passenger car engine of its era.  In February 1931, before production started on the Sixteen, the Society of Automotive Engineers honored Marmon’s huge and gleaming V-16 engine design as “the most notable engineering achieve­ment of 1930.”

Marmon’s cumulative production from 1902 to 1933 approached 110,000 autos.  The mid-point of producing 55,000 autos was reached at the end of the 1927 model year.  In 1929 and 1930, Marmon production exceeded Cadillac in the luxury market.  A number of automotive enthusiasts over the years have praised the prolific and innovative Marmon as a fine automobile.

10 responses to “The Prolific and Innovative Marmon”

  1. keith cruz says:

    was the streering wheel of the model A really on the right or is that a mirrored photo?

  2. basil berchekas jr says:

    Do wish to follow this article on a premier example of one of Indianapolis’ former manufacturing giants…that COULD hve overtaken Detroit’s position as an auto center…

  3. Dennis E. Horvath says:

    Hi Keith:

    From the photos I have, I believe Marmons were right-hand drive until sometime in 1911. Most autos made the transition to left-hand drive in the 1910’s.

    Thank you for your interest.

  4. Scott Smith says:

    I love the Indy auto history! I can’t wait for more. It’s sad to see that we lost a couple of the old buildings recently (Premier & Empire).

  5. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    We are certainly thrilled that Dennis is generously sharing his vast knowledge with HI and looking forward to more too! Dennis has his own extensive website; you’ll love it if you haven’t yet seen it. Thanks!

  6. Dennis E. Horvath says:

    Hi Scott:

    Thank you for your comment on Premier & Empire. Part of the reason for my contributing to HistoricIndianapolis is to share the lesser-known history of Indy’s auto makers. I’ll be sharing more about Premier & Empire in the future.

  7. Joe E ( says:

    We had a Marmon dealership here in Evansville

  8. Dennis E. Horvath says:

    Tha’s interesting. Do you have any information about it that you would like to share with me? I enjoy learning more about Indiana-bulit autos. Just click on my contact information.
    Thank you.

  9. Anonymous says:


  10. Augie D. says:

    I worked in Plant #2 on Drover St. across from Eli Lilly’s during the 70’s. At that time it was Stewart-Warner Southwind Div. When S-W more or less folded. they sold the land to Lilly’s who demolished it and turned it into part of their empire.

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